Gordley Associates, the policy consultants to the U.S. pulse industry prepared the following summary of the major provisions of the CARES Act Agriculture Provisions.
Coronavirus Assistance/Stimulus bill Provides Funding for Agriculture, USDA, Commodity Credit Corporation, and Food Programs
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides $9.5 billion in emergency COVID-19 response funding to support agricultural producers impacted by COVID-19, including producers of specialty crops, producers that supply local food systems, and livestock producers. The bill includes language that replenishes the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) borrowing authority by $14 billion.
- $450 million for Emergency Food Assistance.
- $14 billion to replenish the CCC which could be used for another MFP payment.
- $425 Million to boost federal agencies like APHIS, Inspection services, etc.
USDA/OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL – $750,000
The bill provides funding for conducting audits and investigations of projects and activities carried out with the supplemental funding provided in response to coronavirus.
USDA/ANIMAL AND PLANT HEALTH INSPECTION SERVICE – $55 million
The bill provides an additional $55 million to cover salary expenses to offset the decrease in user fee revenue caused by business disruptions.
USDA/AGRICULTURAL MARKETING SERVICE – $45 million
The bill provides an additional $45 million to cover salary expenses to offset the decrease in user fee revenue caused by business disruptions.
USDA/FOOD SAFETY AND INSPECTION SERVICE – $33 million
The bill provides $33 million to support staffing and overtime expenses for Food Safety Inspection Service inspectors at federally inspected slaughter facilities.
USDA/FARM SERVICE AGENCY – $3 million
The bill provides $3 million to support temporary staff and overtime costs resulting from an increased volume of applications in response to coronavirus.
USDA/RURAL DEVELOPMENT – $145.5 million
RURAL BUSINESS COOPERATIVE SERVICE – $20.5 million
The bill provides the necessary subsidy to make $1 billion in lending authority available for the Business and Industry loan guarantee program, which provides much-needed financing to business owners that might not be able to qualify for a loan on their own.
RECONNECT PILOT – $100 million
The bill provides grants for the costs of construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment needed to provide broadband service in eligible rural areas
DISTANCE LEARNING, TELEMEDICINE (DLT), AND BROADBAND PROGRAM – $25 million
The bill provides additional funding for the DLT grant program, which supports rural communities’ access to telecommunications-enabled information, audio, and video equipment, as well as related advanced technologies for students, teachers, and medical professionals.
USDA/FOOD AND NUTRITION SERVICE – $25.06 billion
CHILD NUTRITION PROGRAMS – $8.8 billion
The bill provides additional funding for food purchases and demonstration projects to increase flexibility for schools.
SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (SNAP) – $15.51 billion
The bill provides additional funding for SNAP to cover waiver authorities granted in H.R. 6201 and anticipated increases in participation as a result of coronavirus.
FOOD DISTRIBUTION PROGRAM ON INDIAN RESERVATIONS – $100 million
The bill provides additional funding for low-income households living on Indian reservations and participating Indian Tribal Organizations.
NUTRITION ASSISTANCE FOR THE COMMONWEALTH OF THE NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS, PUERTO RICO, AND AMERICAN SAMOA – $200 million
The bill provides additional funding for U.S. territories that cannot access SNAP. This amount is in addition to annual block grant funding.
THE EMERGENCY FOOD ASSISTANCE PROGRAM – $450 million
The bill provides additional funding for commodities and distribution of emergency food assistance through community partners, including food banks.
USDA/FOREIGN AGRICULTURAL SERVICE (FAS) – $4 million
The bill provides additional funding to cover the cost of repatriating FAS employees stationed abroad.
FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION – $80 million
The bill provides additional funding to support the development of necessary medical countermeasures and vaccines, advance domestic manufacturing for medical products, and monitor medical product supply chains.
COMMODITY CREDIT CORPORATION (CCC)
RMA-USDA has announced additional flexibilities on crop insurance deadlines in response to COVID-19, including (1) enabling producers to send notifications and reports electronically (2) extending the date for production reports, and (3) providing additional time and deferring interest on premium and other payments: link to the various documents attached; and also provide this link: https://www.farmers.gov/coronavirus
USDA announced that the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security have agreed to waive in-person interview requirements for H-2A and H-2B visa applicants. The temporary change is intended to streamline the application process and help maintain a steady labor force for the agriculture sector. U.S. embassies and consulates in Mexico closed effective March 18 because of the pandemic raising concerns that employers and migrant farm workers would not be able to get their visas processed.
USDA and the Department of Labor also announced efforts to identified nearly 20,000 H-2A and H-2B certified positions that have expiring contracts in the coming weeks who could be available to transfer to a different employer’s labor certification. The data, available on www.farmers.gov/manage/h2a, includes the number of certified worker positions, the current employer name and contact, attorney/agent name and contact, and the worksite address. This information will be a resource to H-2A employers whose workforce has been delayed because of travel restrictions or visa processing limitations. Employers are encouraged to monitor www.travel.state.gov for the latest information and should monitor the relevant Embassy/Consular websites for specific operational information.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued an emergency declaration that extends and expands the waiver for trucking Hours of Service rules and regulations, including specifically those hauling feed and fertilizer. In addition, because many Department of Motor Vehicle offices are closed FMCSA has waived certain requirements relating to Commercial Drivers Licenses (CDL). The office closures prevent CDL holders from renewing licenses or getting necessary appointments for required physical examinations, etc. That full announcement can be found here:
Small Business Loans
The $2 trillion coronavirus relief package signed into law last week, officially known as the CARES Act, includes nearly $350 billion for a federal small business loan program called the Paycheck Protection Program. If all employees are kept on payroll for eight weeks, the Small Business Administration (SBA) will forgive the portion of the loans used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities. Up to 100 percent of the loan may be forgivable; if you keep your staff employed through June 30, 2020. Check to see if you qualify and then contact your bank to see if it is an SBA-approved lender. If your bank is not an SBA-approved lender, contact the SBA to find one.
According to Tom Hance with Gordley, "Farmers may qualify for the various forms of small business assistance that is being provided and I would recommend their first call be to their state USDA Rural Development office. If there is not a specific Rural Development assistance program that can address their needs, they can then look to the more general programs. Those are now being rolled out by the Administration, Department of Treasury, and Small Business Administration. I think Processors should also check with USDA Rural Development, assuming they are located in rural areas."